Preparing to work or train abroad is a challenging adventure, which is why we have prepared the following information for prospective foreign national employees.
Included below is employment information for international exchange visitors (J-1) and temporary professionals (H-1B). The Wistar Institute is also an E-Verify employer and hires students (F-1) on post-completion OPT and STEM OPT extension.
Please contact Wistar’s Human Resources department with questions about travel, housing, health insurance, banking, climate and living in Philadelphia. We are here to help make the transition to life in the U.S. easier so that you can have a successful experience at The Wistar Institute.
Nonimmigrant Status Information
J-1 EXCHANGE VISITOR
The U.S. Department of State (DOS) administers the overall Exchange Visitor Program. The purpose of the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program is to increase mutual understanding between the people of the U.S. and the people of other countries by means of educational and cultural exchanges and for the home country to benefit from the J-1 exchange visitor’s experiences in the U.S. The Wistar Institute has been designated as an Exchange Visitor Program Sponsor. As an exchange visitor in Wistar’s Program, we offer you the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the world’s foremost scientists. In addition, we support activities that will expose you to American society and culture, and encourage you to share the language, culture and history of your home country.
J-1 CATEGORIES AT THE WISTAR INSTITUTE AND LENGTH OF STAY PERMITTED
J-1 exchange visitor appointments at Wistar fall into two categories:
- Research Scholar: A Research Scholar may be authorized to participate in the Exchange Visitor Program for a maximum of five years. If a Research Scholar completes his or her continuous program participation before the full five-year period is over, the five-year window is closed and the individual is not eligible to access the remaining unused time.
- Short-term Scholar: A Short-term Scholar may be authorized to participate in the Exchange Visitor Program for a maximum of six months. No extensions beyond six months or changes of category are permitted.
12 AND 24-MONTH BARS IN FOR J-1 RESEARCH SCHOLARS
Individuals who have been in the U.S. for more than six months in the previous year (12 months) in any J visa status are not eligible to enter the U.S. as a J-1 Research Scholar for a 12-month period. Time spent in the J-1 Short-term Scholar category does not count towards the 12-month bar. The 12-month bar applies to both the J-1 principal and any J-2 dependents. The 12-month bar does not prevent individuals from returning to the U.S. in any other visa status or in some other J categories such as Short-Term Scholar or Student. Any individual who participates in an Exchange Visitor Program in the Professor or Research Scholar category is subject to a 24-month bar on “repeat participation” in those categories. Scholars subject to the bar may not return to the U.S. as a J-1 scholar in the Professor or Research Scholar categories for the 24-month period. This bar also applies to J-2 dependents.
INA SECTION 212(E) TWO-YEAR HOME COUNTRY RESIDENCE REQUIREMENT
Certain J-1s and their J-2 dependents are required to “reside and be physically present” in their home country (country of nationality/citizenship or legal permanent residence) for an aggregate of two years after completion of the J Program.
J-1s and J-2s are subject to this requirement if:
- The J-1 receives any funding, directly or indirectly, from his/her home country or the U.S. government at any time to support his/her J-1 program; or if
- The J-1’s skills (indicated on DS-2019 as subject/field code) are deemed to be in short supply by the home country according to the Exchange Visitor Skills List.
Until the J-1s and J-2s have fulfilled this two-year requirement, they:
- May not change their nonimmigrant status within the U.S.;
- Are not eligible for H, L, or K visas; and
- May not apply for an immigrant visa or for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident.
If the J-1 cannot fulfill the two-year commitment, he/she may be able to apply for a waiver often based on a “no objection” statement of the home country government and waiver recommendation from DOS. However, the final authority to grant the waiver lies with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If a waiver is granted to a J-1, it will apply to any J-2 dependents as well.
J-2 DEPENDENT STATUS FOR SPOUSES AND CHILDREN
The spouse and unmarried minor children under 21 years of age of the J-1 scholar are eligible for J-2 dependent status for the primary purpose of accompanying the J-1 scholar while in the U.S. Each J-2 dependent must be in possession of his/her own DS-2019. Eligible J-2 dependents may to apply to USCIS for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that will allow them to work in the United States provided that the income is not needed to support the J-1 scholar. J-2 children are permitted to enroll in elementary or secondary schools while in the U.S.
J EXCHANGE VISITOR INSURANCE REQUIREMENTS
DOS maintains health insurance requirements for all J-1 exchange visitors. According to the J-1 regulation 22 CFR 62.14, all scholars and their J-2 dependents are required to have health insurance that meets DOS requirements. J-1 scholars paid by Wistar in a full-time, benefit-eligible position will qualify for health insurance offered at Wistar for a minimum premium cost. These insurance requirements set forth by DOS are as follows:
- Medical benefits of at least $100,000 (USD) per accident or illness
- Repatriation of remains in the amount of $7,500 (USD)
- Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $10,000 (USD)
- A deductible not to exceed $500 (USD) per accident or illness
- A policy underwritten by an insurance corporation with an A.M. Best rating of “A-” or above, and Insurance Solvency International, Ltd (ISI) rating of “A-I” or above, a Standard and Poor’s Claims Paying Ability rating of “A-” or above, or a Weiss Research, Inc. rating of B+ or above.
If you are a Wistar-paid employee, you may be eligible to enroll yourself and your J-2 dependents in the health insurance plan offered by Wistar.
If you do not receive income from Wistar you must purchase medical insurance for yourself and your J-2 dependents immediately upon arrival in the U.S. Medical insurance must cover the entire period of participation in the Exchange Visitor program. The Human Resources department will provide you with medical insurance provider recommendations.
H-1B TEMPORARY PROFESSIONAL
An H-1B temporary worker is defined as a person who will perform services in a “specialty occupation.” The H-1B classification is available for those occupations that require “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and attainment of a bachelor’s or higher degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent) as a minimum entry into the occupation in the United States.” The employer must meet requirements set both by USCIS and the Department of Labor (DOL) in order to file for H-1B status for a prospective employee. Individuals who do not already have alternate employment authorization cannot be employed until final notice is received from USCIS approving Wistar’s H-1B petition. An approved H-1B notice for employment at The Wistar Institute allows you to be employed only by Wistar in the job described in the H-1B petition.
LENGTH OF STAY IN H-1B STATUS
Beneficiaries may hold H-1B status for a maximum of six years. Someone who has been in H-1B status for the maximum of six years is generally not eligible for more time in H-1B status until they have “resided and been physically present outside the U.S., except for brief trips for business or pleasure, for the immediate prior year,” at which point the six-year clock can be seen to “restart.”
PORTABILITY PROVISIONS UNDER H-1B STATUS
The H-1B status is date, job and employer-specific. If you have valid H-1B status with another employer, you must still get the necessary authorization to begin employment at Wistar. In this case, however, once the Human Resources department submits the H-1B petition and it is received by USCIS, you can begin working at Wistar under portability provisions in the H-1B regulations.
EMPLOYMENT AND STUDY FOR H-4 DEPENDENTS
H-4 status does not provide for employment authorization for dependents except under very limited circumstances. Only H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status are permitted to apply to USCIS for an EAD that will allow them to work in the U.S. H-4 dependents may attend school while in H-4 status. H-4 students who must work as part of their academic program must change their status to an F-1 (student) status in order to have employment authorization.